Teenage spaces – stairwells, liminal spaces. Places to hang out, be themselves. Kids are not allowed to make too much noise at void decks, in case they are a public nuisance. But okay, then where are kids supposed to hang out? Where are they supposed to grow and develop beyond who they are in their families, in their schools?
What about me? Where did I grow up? I find myself thinking about the local music scene. Recently I caught myself using an analogy from there to think about what frustrates me about the modern media landscape. What happens in the local music scene is this – a group of people come together, some form bands, some are audience members, and everyone participates for a few years. After a while, some bands wind down and break up or just go on indefinite hiatus because they got weary of it all. And then new bands take their place. And this happens over and over again. What I find frustrating is how little self-referencing the scene as a whole does. People reinvent the wheel, and have to re-learn almost everything from scratch. There are a few veterans who persist (the old-time music engineers and equipment providers are the real heroes), but most people don’t seem very interested in the history of the scene as a whole. What I think should happen is – more people should reference the music of the past. They should do covers of artists from 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago. This gives the music a depth and continuity that it wouldn’t otherwise have, and it draws in old fans out of the woodwork. It would allow the scene to grow. Alas, this doesn’t really happen. Everyone’s kind of focused on the short-term. When they leave, they don’t leave very much behind. This is beginning to change a little bit I think because YouTube, etc are much more enduring mediums than CDs, but my frustration is with artists who don’t look back. There should at least be some.
Similarly, my frustration with the media landscape at large is this sort of ahistoricity. Apart from the occasional writer who writes a book and digs into a ton of research review and such (and these people do a great service to the rest of us), most people seem to reinvent the wheel over and over again. It’s a real shame, IMHO. It makes discussions unnecessarily superficial and speculative. We can learn so much just from studying the history of such discussions. We don’t need to go through the same argument all the way through, with all the false turns and dead ends. But that’s what people do most of the time.
This is what I’m trying to do with my word vomit project, and with my bookmarks and the blogposts that I’ve been sitting on for a long time about the internet and race and gender and whatnot. In essence I suppose I’m holding these as potential book projects, because it’s a lot more work than one would expect from a blogpost. I should probably revisit and reimagine how I think about these things. Because I’m not going to find the time to sit down and write entire books from start to finish. So I’m going to have to slice it up, and then connect it all together, and then rely on feedback in order to see what works and what doesn’t.
So that’s what I gotta do with regards to my writing. But I came to this point because I was initially thinking about teenage spaces. And I’m thinking about how teenagers are forced to find all these weird, twisted spaces because the world isn’t designed for them. There might be a few, I suppose – but “designated spot for teenagers” is automatically going to be the most uncool place for any teenager to be, because teenagers are by nature supposed to defy authority.
So I suppose my original line of thinking – “it’s tragic that teenagers have to do all these contortions to find spaces of their own” – is a little misguided itself. Because giving them designated spaces probably won’t cut it, unless we somehow just leave spaces for them without particularly making a big deal of it. And the furtiveness of teen life kinda helps you appreciate the more earned, paid spaces of adult life. Or does it? How do rich kids feel about it? I’m not sure if there’s a simple answer. Anyway this whole thing was really just a reflection or rumination rather than some sort of serious policy suggestion. It will inform how I raise my own kids, if I have kids. I would encourage them to invite friends over for house parties of their own, and do my best to stay out of their way. I would engage them as much as I can, take them out for ice cream, ask them about life, about their aspirations, about their interests, about their fears.
What does this tell me about what I should do with who I am right now? Well, I should start preparing, even if I don’t have children. The broader point is that people need spaces, people need encouragement, people need hope… and if I weren’t given those things, then I can ‘have’ it for myself by giving it away to others.
A nagging thought though – what if people who are given things don’t appreciate them? The quote comes to mind – hard times create strong men, strong men create good times, good times create weak men, weak men create hard times. Is this inevitable, inescapable? Can you help your children appreciate what they’ve got? I’m sure it’s POSSIBLE, but it requires voluntarily entering hardship. It means bringing your kids to soup kitchens and such, helping them see from day one how lucky they are to have what they have – and not in a preachy, bullshit way, because kids see through preachy bullshit very easily.
I guess the thing about having kids, if you’re serious about it, is that they force you to confront your own bullshit. And you WILL end up bullshitting them about some things in order to keep the peace, as Paul Graham pointed out in his essay about lies we tell kids, and taboos and whatnot. Maybe it’ll be a good habit to keep a list of times you bullshit your kids. At least then you can be conscientious about it, and you can let them know about it when they become adults.
I think my biggest wish for any kids that I might have is that I’d want them to be the sort of people I’d love to hang out with.